A day in the life of a Kids Pastor: Reflections on story and finding hope

Sundays. Church days. Early mornings and long afternoons.  Sometimes I come home with a tired soul, a weary soul. Other days I come home elated. Grateful, thankful, amazed.  Most often it’s a mix of things.  But every week there are new stories, new prayers, new experiences that shape our church family.  This week was no exception.  Sometimes people wonder, what do Kids Director’s and Kids Pastors do on Sundays?  Especially if you are not in a classroom teaching.  These are the moments of my day I needed to reflect on.  These are the moments that remind me of my need for God and God’s powerful presence.  Here’s a snapshot of the day of  Kids Pastor.

Early morning prayer and prep.  Reading lessons in case I need to fill in for someone.  Walking through the list of things happening at church today: baby dedications, pastors visiting all the classrooms to pray a back to school blessing for every child, kids worship meeting, training new leaders, inviting kids to fill our chalk board wall with the names of their schools.  Prayer. Worship. Teaching. Small Groups.

The moment my feet cross the threshold of the church building- my spirit stirs.  I hear the worship team practicing- this week I let someone in who was running late- smiles and laughter mark the 60 second conversation.  I walk into the grade school chapel and greet our worship leader who is pouring over music and practicing for the day.  We talk about worship plans and things we left unplanned for the week.  We talk about changes and setting a meeting to finalize the new kids choir being put together.

I check with the tech team to fix an error I made in the week on an important announcement and I head to team prayer meetings.  Our Kids Staff gathers at 8. We are here.  We look at each other and take a deep breath- we are packing a lot of things into this “back to school” Sunday, anticipating over 200 kids at church this day.  Our teams are still short-handed and we wonder if our classrooms will be managed chaos or gardens of spiritual growth (probably a combination of the two).  We pray a prayer reminding ourselves that we are able because GOD is ABLE.

The leaders arrive and check-in begins.  Families trickle through the door- some with boundless energy others looking sleepy from whatever burdens they carry or late nights they experienced.  All are greeted with a “good morning” and a smile.  This is how it begins.

This Sunday in particular was filled with so many things.  At each service we dedicated a child- one, the child of our worship director which was powerful and emotional; the other was for a family that is moving away soon- bittersweet blessings and goodbyes.  I prayed a prayer of blessing over each child, listening for the spirit to direct my words as the congregation stretches their hands forward as a sign of coming alongside the family.  A few minutes after dedications, pastors and leaders laid hands on one of our staff who is moving out of state.  Another tearful goodbye.  We pray a blessing- believing good things are in store for the next chapter, while also mindful of a hole in our hearts for the deep impact this staff person carries on our lives.

The day continues. I race to the kids area to find a check-in computer spitting out blank white labels at will.  This is not what it is suppose to do!  Families are waiting in the hall with anxious and weary faces entertaining their toddlers.  A classroom is full and these parents are wondering- will my child be able to go to class?  Will I sit in the sanctuary with a squirmy child in my lap or a Bible in my lap?  We comfort and explain, we check and double check classrooms and do our best to make space for everyone.  So after resetting label printers and saying good-bye to relieved parents, I walk to our PreKinder class to share with them our exciting Tithes and Offerings project for the school year, “Kids Helping Kids: Peacemaking”.  Explaining tithe to 5 year olds is fun and funny.  Tithe is our gift to God!  “I have a quarter at home!” says a child.  I ask them what they know about fighting, not getting along, and sadness when hard things happen.  They know these things.  Fighting over toys, crying when you get hurt.  And God asks us to be peacemakers, so where there is fighting we are called to be helpers, when someone is sad we are called to be comforting.  When there are people doing good work in the world we can support that- sometimes by sharing money.  So that’s what our church does with our tithes.  We draw a connection between their experiences of fighting and sadness and communities in the world that fight- that’s war, and people groups that are sad because they are hungry or they don’t have houses to live in- there is poverty.  It cannot be a one time conversation- because there is so much to take in.  But these kids know. One little girl raised her hand and said, “my mom and I don’t have a home.  My mom had to leave.”  I knew her story and the family that has taken her in as refuge, and in that moment my heart cracked and also swelled because I know that there are good people in this sweet little girl’s life who are working for restoration in her family and for her especially.  In that room- we are nurturing little peace makers.

One little boy is lying face down on the floor- resisting encouragement to sit up and participate.  Another child is wandering around the back of his classroom, eyebrows knit together clearly upset to be at church this morning.  The wails coming out of the 1 year olds classroom echoed in the hallways.  It was a hard day for some of our babies.  There were three bloody noses at one of the services, but everyone recovered well, including the teachers who had to quickly respond to these incidents while managing a classroom of kids.  These are the things that volunteer Kids Ministry Leaders don’t always know they are signing up for.

I visit our 4th and 5th grade classroom where they are discussing the impact of Adam and Eve’s sin and separation from God.  One child astutely asks- do you think that because Adam and Eve left the garden, God put obstacles in their way to teach them when they try to rely on their own abilities they will become stronger?  Or does God put challenges in their way so they will fail and recognize they need him?  Another child says, well not that sin was a good thing, but it’s good that they had to work- work is a good thing for us, so we don’t get lazy.  As our small group leaders navigates the ins and outs of big questions and big ideas and swirling thoughts- we see kids thinking, wondering, trying to imagine and fill in the gaps of the stories.  Of course- we run out of time to have all our conversations tied up neatly- if that is even possible.  We did our best to remind the kids that the sin was to disobey God and eat the apple, but the greater sin and consequence of the Fall was separation from God.  Adam and Eve wanted to figure it out on their own- to be in charge of themselves, and that was not a part of God’s plan.  God had created them for community, and communion with their Creator.  This is what God pursues in restoring people to God’s self.

I was reminded of my own fallenness as I had a conversation with a parent who had showed up prepared to do something for kids ministry and I cancelled the opportunity without speaking to her first.  I recognized my own brokenness in that moment, trying to “make things work” and “make wise choices” which sometimes means I take control when I just need to let go.  It stuck with me for a while, and I had to return to the parent and ask for forgiveness.  Yes- we all make mistakes- even Kid’s Pastors.

As I walked through the area behind the sanctuary I saw one of our parents standing alone- and I walked right over.  This parent is part of a family that has lovingly opened their home to dear friends from out of state whose child is battling cancer.  And though they hold onto hope for a miracle- the family was saying their goodbyes and heading home for care.  It’s been a bloody and brutal battle and the prayer warriors and doctors have been fighting around the clock, and love has been showered out, and this little girl has demonstrated strength and resilience and joy beyond her precious eight years of life…but the burden is great, and not carried alone.  As I hugged this friend and we cried together, we sat with the hurt- reflecting on the unbearable pain it would be, were it one of our own children, empathetic pain for another parent.  How do we help? How do we pray? Why is cancer taking our babies?

Shortly after, I was stopped by a mom between services who asked if she could pray for me.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I never refuse.  She had sensed God asking her to pray for me as my youngest heads off to Kindergarten.  This was something that had been consuming my thoughts all week as we waited with anticipation for the start of the new school year.  I received the prayer- fully aware that God was ministering to me even as I was ministering to others.  I love that about God.

As the day was winding down and we were saying our goodbyes to kids for the week, a parent stopped by and dropped some heavy news.  Her husband had just left her.  They were okay for the moment but she was worried about her three kids and how they would manage this burden.  Oh God. Not another one.  With tears in our eyes, we talked about resumes and jobs and paying bills and buying groceries.  We prayed and made a plan to connect later in the week.  I looked up and was greeted by a another parent who is also walking through a difficult season of life.  I was reminded as I saw a small glimmer in her eyes- eyes that had once been hollow and empty- were showing signs of life.  We embraced with a knowing look that it was good to see her at church, even if it’s a struggle to show up.  She showed up and that was good.

I was gathering my things and looked up to see one of our volunteers who I had been hoping to connect with- she was free for coffee so we decided to have a spontaneous meet up.  We sat down for coffee and she began to share her life story.  Bits and pieces came out as she shared challenges and struggles and calling and gifts and passions she has been able to use and dreams she is seeking to fulfill.  As story after story of struggle and brokenness and hope and life were shared I was- once again- so acutely aware that this was sacred space, these were stories of pain and also of courage, of challenge and also resiliency.  What was seemingly impossible- was made possible.

I share these stories- as much for myself as for anyone who might read them.  Ministry in the church is often hard.  It is often painful.  People face really hard things.  And ministry in the church is also full of goodness and joy and hope.  Without masking pain, or hiding things, it is possible to share burdens and have hope.  It is possible to doubt God’s goodness, or wonder if God is present- while still allowing God to demonstrate God’s love.  Church is a place that holds both sorrow and rejoicing! We experience powerful connection to God through worship music – dancing, singing, arms wide-open in full surrender.  We experience encouragement in our faith by allowing others to share their faith and wisdom with us, to teach and guide us.  We are strengthened when we allow the church family to come alongside us and support us. We are recipients of God’s grace and unending love when we participate in communion- taking the bread and drinking the wine- marking us a followers of Jesus.

I close my eyes at the end of the day, heart cracked in many ways, but somehow still beating strong and blood flowing.  My reflection feels incomplete- there is something that I’m missing.  Maybe it’s something to do with strength.  Something to do with offering up all these people, these stories, these experiences of the day to God.  That God sees it all and knows it all and is still God over all.  Peacemaker.  God is the ultimate maker of peace.  I want to be a peace maker too.  My heart longs for families to be whole, for kids to have hearts turned toward Jesus- fully submitting to this God of love who will journey with them through all of life’s challenges and bring them to greatness as they walk with God.  My heart longs for healing and restoration.  My heart longs for hope to be stronger than defeat, for courage to be stronger than fear, for faith to be stronger than doubt.

This the anthem we are singing in our house these past few weeks.  It’s a banner that covers everything we say and do and experience.  Hakuna mungu kama wewe  – Swahili for there’s no one like Jesus. We sing it at the top of our lungs.  We dance.  We remember. We celebrate, there is no one, no one like our God.

This is Sunday.

My Journey to Kids Ministry

M101_0111y journey in KidMin began when I turned 10 or 11 and was allowed to volunteer in the church nursery on Wednesday nights.  I had sung on the kids worship team, memorized the books of the bible and the scripture memory booklet as fast as I could.  I knew the church layout backward and forward and could not wait to love on some little kids.  To serve, was the highest form of responsibility and ownership of my faith I could imagine.  To be trusted with the care of the church’s little ones.

After graduating from college, I was entrusted with my first kids ministry at Quest in Seattle, WA. This picture captures the first experience we had together, bonding outside of Sunday mornings. This VBS included the 4 kids from our church, 4 from the church across the parking lot (which would later become our own!), a handful of friends from the church planting community, and the kids that I nannied.  We were an eclectic mix, to say the least.  A lot has changed since 2003.  Our journey has been special, unique and unforgettable.


My favorite “shift” in ministry at Quest has been our growth to become a vibrant Children and Family Ministry.  It has not been so much about programs, but rather the ministry philosophy, and the way we view the work that is being done in the church, for and WITH children. We do not DO children’s ministry because the children need us.  God is always at work, our job is to simply come alongside God in God’s work.  As the Holy Spirit moves and stirs in a church, kids are in a great position to hear the voice of God and respond in worship.  We create environments and space for God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit.  By inviting kids to participate, we learn and grow together.

KidMin is a dynamic and changing culture in church ministry.  I believe within the next decade the church will move from seeing kids as the most vulnerable people in the worshipping community (though they will certainly be vulnerable) to the most valuable in the worshipping community as we move toward re-integrating them into the church body and allowing God to bless the church through their gifts and passions and dreams.  Keeping kids connected to their faith, when the world seems to draw them away from God at every corner, will mean providing space for their faith to be acknowledge as authentic, real, and a true gift to the church.

Quest Kids Vision and Purpose Statement

The 30,000 foot view of ministry to kids in a multi-ethnic church in Seattle, WA.

Our Kids and Family Ministry has evolved over the past 13 years.  Each year we reflect [briefly] on our vision and mission.  Because it is based off the larger church vision and mission, it doesn’t change too much!

We seek to Love God. Love Other People. Love God’s World. 

This was recently re-written to reflect our current ministry.

Purpose & Values

Quest Kids is a multi-ethnic, all abilities, and intergenerational ministry to and with children.  We seek to journey together to be transformed by God’s Spirit as we follow Jesus and grow in discipleship.  We are a diverse body; each created in God’s image and designed to worship God and be valued; to have a place and presence in the church community.

We believe that a child’s spiritual formation begins at home, and that it is the role of the church to assist parents/guardians in raising children to know and live for God. We are committed to each child’s spiritual growth throughout all aspects of our ministry. We provide a safe, nurturing environment with a structure of safety policies and volunteer accountability.

Through music, Scripture, prayer, fun and relationships, we hope to ignite a deep love for Christ in each child we serve.  In teaching the message of God’s love, salvation through Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we help kids recognize their place in the big God Story.  Quest Kids seek to love God, love other people and pursue reconciliation in the world.

Getting Leaders Ready to Serve in KidMin

wood-top-keys-lockOne of the [many] keys to successfully keeping volunteer leaders involved in ministry with children and families is appropriate training.  First, we INSPIRE them to serve.  Then we EQUIP them to lead.  Lastly, we DEVELOP leaders (I am still learning how to do the last one well!)

Here is how we set our volunteer leaders up for success in Quest Kids:

ONE on ONE Meeting with Pastor or Director- 30-60 minutes

They are a person first, and we just want to be in relationship and know one another.  This takes a lot of time, but is well-worth the investment.


Leader Orientation is a one hour meeting to review the Leader Handbook with all new volunteers.  This is a required training for all leaders, but if someone absolutely cannot make it to an evening or Sunday training, we send the handbook home with them and have them return a “Read Receipt”.


It is a great idea to let a new leader shadow in a specific classroom or age group before they commit to it.  Also, pairing them with a seasoned ministry leader is a good idea if you can.  We have created a simple, one page leader guide for each of our classrooms that reminds leaders of their roles (i.e. diaper changing, prepping/serving snacks, where to access the volunteer schedule or Bible lessons, and Sunday morning schedule, etc.).  This ensures all leaders are getting the same information as they begin serving with a specific age group.

- 3 hours

Keeping Kids Safe is our Child Abuse Prevention and Safety Training offered several times each year.  This is a required training for all KidMin leaders, done at their earliest convenience (within first year of volunteering).  KKS dates are announced several months in advance of the training.

ALL LEADER GATHERING- 90-120 minutes

Once every 12-18 months we hold an all leader gathering for visioning, prayer, and encouragement of our Quest Kids Team.  All KidMin leaders are strongly encouraged to attend this event.

Creating Family Ministry Safety Policies


We have created several policies for children and family ministry over the years.  Here is a checklist of important policies every church should have, be working on, or at least planning for.  We recommend consulting your churches lawyer, insurance agent or other safety professional already connected to your church community.

  • Volunteer Leader Handbook for Kids Ministry and/or Youth Ministry- both should have their own!
  • Volunteer Leader Handbook- version for the youth involved in Kids Ministry
  • Health & Wellness (Sick) Policy
  • Allergy Policy
  • Photo/Video Permission
  • Emergency Procedures- Church evacuation plan, earthquake, fire, etc.
  • Child Abuse Prevention Policy

We give every new volunteer a Leader Handbook, ask them to read it and sign the last page and return it to us.  Most of our volunteers are able to make it to our New Leader Orientation offered monthly, but at the very least they are all getting the handbook and learning important information about the ministry vision, volunteer expectations, policies, and reporting procedures.

If you would like to preview a sample of our church’s policies, please email childrensministry@seattlequest.org



The Decision to Go Back to School

When I graduated college, I had a plan. 

Get a job. Get some ministry experience.  Go back to school. Somewhere along the way I was going to start a family and write a children’s book series about the Bible with a specific multicultural lens.

Yeah, about our plans.  They don’t usually happen the way we think they will, do they?

Isaiah 55:3, 8-9 “Listen and come to me. Pay attention to me. Then you will live. I will make a covenant with you that will last forever. I will give you my faithful love…“My thoughts are not like your thoughts. And your ways are not like my ways,”
announces the Lord. “The heavens are higher than the earth. And my ways are higher than your ways. My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”

After four years, falling in love with my job and faith community, I left Children’s Ministry to start a family.  My husband and I, yet again, had a plan.  I would stay at home with the kids and get back into ministry when they were older.  Open-ended discussion.  I loved being at home with my newborn son, but it wasn’t long before my heart was beating again for children and family ministry in the church.  After prayer and struggle and identity crisis, I returned to my church and began ministry, now as a mom.  By the time I returned, my second child was born and the 3rd trailed not far behind.

Going to seminary became a distant dream…until one season where I began to address some fear issues (thanks church community, you really like to break me out of my comfort zone don’t you?!).  Suddenly when my fear was laid bare on the table, there only seemed to be one response:


Reflecting on how God was asking me to be courageous led to a one year process of pursing licensing with our denomination, Evangelical Covenant.  I am now the Associate Pastor of Children and Family Ministry at Quest Church  my home for the past 12 years.  Due to working with the best staff ever, and a fantastic team in Children & Family Ministry , I serve part-time at church and enjoy “work at home mom” status half-time.  Continuing the pattern of courageous baby steps, I’m returning to school part time in Fall 2014 for the MDiv program at Seattle Pacific Seminary.  My alma mater.

Proverbs 4:11-13, I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

When I graduated, God had a plan. I am along for the ride.

More on the journey to come!

Kids Ministry Leader Role Descriptions

It takes FOREVER to write succinct job descriptions for ministry positions in the church. Something that will quickly tell a person what the job is, what they will need to know or prepare and how much time in their week will it require. Here is what we’ve come up with for ministry. It is continually getting re-drafted!


Team Coordinator

Coordinate Lessons, Schedules or Volunteer/Classroom care for a specific ministry age group. Mid-week responsibilites might include volunteer scheduling, or lesson planning, or connecting with KidMin leaders. Once a month, supervise a Sunday service in Kids Ministry. Work with Pastor and Director to lead in a specific ministry area. Time commitment 2-3 hours/week and quarterly Team Coordinator gathering.


Arrive 20 minutes early to help with Family Check-in and direct kids to classrooms and Large Group areas.  Answer questions and assist visitors and newcomers. Time commitment: 45 minutes on Sundays.


Volunteer weekly at one service. Lead kids in singing songs at beginning of lesson times. (Instruments optional, CDs’ in all classrooms) Meet quarterly with other worship leaders. Time commitment: 2 hours/week.


Help run technology for preK-Grade School ministry weekly at one service. Time commitment: 2 hours/week.

Early Childhood Ministry Positions (ages 0-3)

Nursery Leaders

Volunteer weekly to monthly. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins (to set-up classroom). Play with and hold babies, feed and change diapers. Time commitment: 2 hours/week.

Lead Teacher

Volunteer weekly. Arrive 30 minutes before service begins. Plan and prepare lessons, oversee class schedule & flow, lead short Bible story, lesson, craft & snack times, direct other volunteers in assisting with activities. Time commitment: 2-3 hours/week.


Volunteer weekly to monthly. Arrive 20 minutes before service. Play with kids, help lead teacher with activities. Time commitment: 2 hours/week.


PreK-Kindergarten Ministry Positions (ages 4-6)

Large Group Leader

Volunteer two-four times a month. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins for KidMin leader prayer time. Lead large group gathering time of prayer, scripture, and story telling of the Big God Story. Provide support to small group leaders during small group time. Time Commitment: 3-4 hours/week.

Small Group Leader

Volunteer weekly. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins for KidMin leader prayer time. Interact with kids before worship through conversation and small group Activities. Assist large group leader during worship and teaching time by helping kids stay engaged. Lead small group time of crafts, snacks and lesson discussion. Time commitment: 3 hours/week.

Parent Partner

Volunteer 1-2 times/month. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins for KidMin leader prayer time. Assist kids and leaders with needs and activities such as bathroom breaks, snack prep, craft assisting. Time commitment: 2 hours/week.

Grade School Ministry Positions (1st-5th grade)

Large Group Leader

Volunteer two-four times a month. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins for KidMin leader prayer time. Lead large group gathering time of prayer, scripture, and story telling of the Big God Story. Help kids connect bible truths to their everyday life. Provide support to small group leaders during small group time. Time Commitment: 3-4 hours/week.

Small Group Leader

Volunteer weekly. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins for KidMin leader prayer time. Interact with kids before worship through games, conversation and Small Group Activities. Assist large group leader during worship and teaching time by helping kids stay engaged. Lead small group discussion & activities after Big God Story. Time commitment: 3 hours/week.

Parent Partner

Volunteer 1-2 times/month. Arrive 20 minutes before service begins for KidMin leader prayer time. Assist kids and leaders with needs and activities such as bathroom breaks, snack prep, craft assisting. Time commitment: 2 hours/week.


Other Ways to Volunteer 

Office Volunteer

Provide administrative support to the daily workings of CFM through curriculum organizing and prepping, working on volunteer schedules, event planning and support for volunteer recruiting and training. Fun projects include birthday cards, making flyers and FB advertising, publishing blog posts, creating video and picture slideshows, and keeping bulletin boards current. 5-10 hrs/week

Special Events

Help with planning and prep for special events as needed. Not usually more than a couple hours a week in any given season, and 4-6 hours on a special event day.

Childcare Coordinating

Help coordinate childcare for moms groups and church-wide meetings/events.

Listening to Reconciliation Voices

Last year, I felt God whisper to me in one of my inward moments of self-reflection.  I was having a conversation with God about the meaning and purpose of some of my deepest hopes and dreams- that are not currently reality. God whispered,

it is not what you have to say that others need to hear, it is what others have to say that YOU need to hear.

I spent the early part of 2014 asking God,

what am I listening for?

It was only this December, when school was over, the Christmas tree had been taken down, after months of lamenting Michael Brown, and wondering what God was asking me to do in response to the brokenness I and my community were struggling through, as I was preparing to spend some time listening for a new word or theme for 2015.  This thought dawned on me, (I am slow sometimes!) my place in the work of reconciliation, begins with this very idea: listen to those around you.  I have spent my life listening only to certain voices. Those that tell me I am a child of God. Those that tell me that all people are equal in God’s eyes. Those that tell me that I should feel bad about what happens to people of color in my community, but I can’t really do anything about it. Those that tell me that reconciliation is only possible when Jesus comes again.  Those that tell me it’s not my problem.  Not all those voices have been good.

In reconciliation work, I must first take a posture of listening.

The voices to whom I listen to, matter.  I am continually reflecting on my role and responsibility in the work of reconciliation in my family and community context.  I desire to be more deeply connected to what God’s word says about reconciliation, identity and being the family of God. This is an area where I need to grow, to focus, and to pay attention. I study and dialogue and engage; taking faithful and brave steps to be involved in God’s work of reconciliation in my neighborhood, community and even world (that sounds big, because it is!).

It can be as simple as pointing other people to credible witnesses in our communities that are important voices which need to be elevated.  So this is what I do.  I share the men and women I am learning from, inspired by, and listening to.

Whose voices are you listening to, learning from and encouraged by?  What steps are you taking to resist the urge to ignore our communities needs for confession, repentance and restored relationships between cultures?

Why Reconciliation and Family Ministry?

Two things in ministry have deeply impacted my life and calling as a pastor to kids and families.  I feel a deep sense of personal conviction to Reconciliation and Family Ministry.

Art Easter 5AMy journey of reconciliation began in my first year in college.  I was 17, excited to leave home and discover what God had planned for my life.  I took courses my freshman year that turned my life upside down and shifted my whole perspective on culture, faith and ministry. I was suddenly face to face with Jesus, in the midst of personal pain and trial, feeling called to global and urban cross-cultural ministry.  Through God’s nudging, my tripping, and the prodding of people who loved me, I developed a new lens by which to view my faith in light of God’s multi-cultural kingdom.  I took steps forward and began a new season of listening and learning and responding.  I developed an awareness of privilege and power and discovered in new ways Jesus’ love of the poor and marginalized in our world.  It was a time to pay attention to the world around me and be attuned to God’s work- reconciling, redeeming and transforming people.  I noticed this in friendships, through listening to other people’s stories; in what I read, in the conversations I had, in the people and places I felt called to serve.

As I sought to live into this new perspective I found my self developing new relationships with people who were different than me; involved in homeless ministry; getting to know my city in new ways, exploring churches and discovering the rich cultural diversity of Seattle; leading a campus worship ministry; serving in inner city Philadelphia, traveling to the Yucatan to learn and serve alongside the people of Merida, Mexico.  In this season I met my husband and got to know his bi-cultural Lebanese and Dutch family.  Along the way I learned a lot about myself, my family and heritage, and my own identity as a white female who was called to multi-ethnic children’s ministry.  What I began learning about myself and others so many years ago, I am still learning.

Faith in my youth years was about personal devotion time, faithfully attending church, participating in worship and serving my church and community.  It was about praying and reading the Bible and memorizing scripture and telling others about Jesus.  All good things.  Overtime though I have seen that all these things- apart from understanding God’s work of reconciliation in my life and our call, as believers, to the ministry of reconciliation- had meant my faith was about me.  It was individual and in many ways self-gratifying.  If I do the right things, say the right things, pray the right prayers, I’ll be good with God.  But if I am truly following Jesus, then I will be not only spending quiet time with God in the early hours of the morning, and participating in the life of the Church every week, but I will be seeking out ways to love those our society rejects, to clothe the poor and feed the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless and seek the welfare of our city.  I will be speaking out against the injustices of our culture- these are things that Jesus did and I want to follow his footsteps.  This is radical kingdom faith that is not only about my personal relationship with Jesus, but my faithfulness and obedience to a life of radical kingdom living.

Reconciliation is a transforming journey of confession and forgiveness with God and between people that restores broken relationships, social structures and systems.

This is the life of devotion I have been invited in to.  And so I began asking new questions. What does it mean to trust God when there is no hope? What does faith look like in the face of cancer?  How can I walk along side brothers and sisters of color who face micro-agression, racism, and prejudice daily? What does it mean to truly listen to someone and love them as Jesus would? How do I offer a Jesus-size measure of compassion, mercy and justice in the world? How can I praise God joyfully and still lament with others when confronted with pain, loss, violence, abuse, issues social injustice, racism, and human trafficking?  What does it mean to have a teachable spirit? What bold, brave and courageous steps is God calling me to, as I seek to be faithful to God’s mission in the world- to see all of creation redeemed, restored and made new?  What am I to stand up for, who am I to stand in solidarity with?  How can I be a better listener?  Whose story am I invited into- to hold with dignity, value and worth?  These questions have formed me, and continue to be a part of my journey of transformation.

This transformational faith is simply about reconciliation with God and reconciliation with others. God invites us into a personal relationship with Him, be we are also invited into the Covenant community of God.  This is holy ground. Mercy, compassion and justice are foundational in this place.  So how do I live it, teach it, preach it?  I am reconciled, and I am called to be a reconciler in the world.  This is both terrifying, humbling and awe-some.

Family Ministry is my jam. I love working with kids.  But I do not do kids ministry in a silo.  Not only do kids need a village of people surrounding them, the village needs our kids.  We know that parents are the primary influence on a child’s faith, and that faith that sticks in a child’s life is faith developed in community.  I dream of the day that children are seen as full participants in the church.  As I have learned over the years, my job is to teach kids, but more than that I believe we are called to create space for kids to learn about and explore their faith.  They practice worship expressions and they “do/live/experience” worship, they ask questions, they provide thoughtful answers to questions.  They play, they laugh, they cry, they sing and pray.  They struggle.  They have hope.  Family ministry is about laying a firm foundation and allowing kids to experience their faith in the safety of the church community, and go out into the world to practice it and live it out.

I also am called to the multi-ethnic or multicultural church.  I see the multi-ethnic church as  joyful expression of God’s love for the world and the Church.  We more fully reflect God’s kingdom when we worship God together- all ages, all ethnicities, all abilities.  This is the beauty and gift of the family of God.  There are many barriers in the US to multiethnic ministry, but Jesus came to break down those barriers.  Jesus is our role model in this.  Jesus did not only heal the most faithful, Jesus did not only teach the teachable, Jesus did not only minister to the religious people.  Jesus loved those whom no one else wanted to love.  Jesus invited the “sinners” to a life transformed.  Jesus praised the sacrifices of those who had little.  Jesus reached out to the poor and called them faithful.  Jesus honored the faith of those who genuinely desired to believe, even when they struggled to believe.  Jesus broke down cultural, social, ethnic, gender and ability barriers.  Jesus invites us to follow Him.

If we are to follow Jesus, then reconciliation must be woven into the fabric of children, youth and family ministry.  What it means to be reconciled to God and the people must be taught, practiced and lived out in our homes and churches. Intentional conversations, awareness of our cultural identity and faith identity, how we treat other people, how we grow and learn from those who are different than us, how we listen and give dignity to people’s lives and stories, and the ways we live out the gospel; all of these are transformational and faith shaping.  I am learning how to be a practitioner of these things.

My hope and prayer is to see children and families wholly reconciled to God and other people, participating in the whole mission of the church; as a community sent by God.

Including Kids in Worship

Children are an important part of the body of Christ.  We believe children are not the church of the future, they are the church of today.  A child’s place in the church should be acknowledged and his or her presence valued.  We must lead the children, but we can also learn from them.

In Matthew 18:2-5 we read, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’.”

Jesus said in Mark 10:14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

God designed all of his creation to worship him, Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouths of infants and children, you have ordained praise.”

God instructed Israel, as a whole community in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

Simply acknowledging God’s presence in our daily life and modeling a life of worship is a greater example to our children of our faith in Christ than our words could ever be alone. But how do we do “church” together”?  We invite kids in.  We let them sing, sit, observe, respectfully ask questions, and we talk them through what they see, hear, and feel.  We help them feel included by teaching them the songs we sing, letting them put the tithe in the offering basket, participate in communion or receiving a blessing. No one says this will be easy.  Kids are noisy, they stir and move and rustle, they speak too loudly during quiet parts of worship, they need to go the bathroom or get a drink of water at the most inconvenient moment.  They cry as if on cue during silence or hide under the chair of the person next to them, complain of worship being too loud or not knowing the words.

“Part of your duty as a parent is to spend a few years sacrificing your own quality of worship so that you can teach your little ones to worship”- Elizabeth Sandell


Tips for parents as you prepare for worship:

  • Make the “decisions” Saturday night: the decision to attend worship, the decision to get up at a certain time; decisions of what to wear and have for breakfast, what you need to bring with you.  This will help Sunday mornings run a little more smoothly.
  • Talk to your child about what to expect at church the night before, let them know where you will be and what you will be doing.
  • Arrive just a few minutes early so your child can be a part of the beginning of the service.
  • Find a seat in the sanctuary where your child can see, but is also comfortable and will not be too disruptive (for your sake) when the move around (they will move around!).
  • Give your child an opportunity to use the restroom, get a drink of water before service begins.
  • Help your child understand.  It is okay to whisper quietly to your child about what is going on or what is coming next.
  • Model prayer, singing, closing your eyes and clapping with and for your child.  It is good for your child to notice the different ways people express themselves in worship at church.
  • Do not assume that your child is not gaining anything from the service if they appear to be bored or not paying attention.  We do not always know what the Holy Spirit is doing in a child’s heart.
  • Sometimes a move to the back of the sanctuary or a trip to the drinking fountain helps a child re-focus by stretching their legs and moving their body their mind and body can be ready to participate again.
  • Talk with your child after service about the things they saw, what they observed or thought about the service.  Ask you child what was their favorite part, or what was most difficult for them.  You can even ask them what God spoke to them during the service or how did they see/feel God’s presence.
  • Pray for you child and their friends; that God will speak to them during the service.  Encourage your children to listen for God’s voice.
  • Allow your child to participate in communion (see our “how to prepare for communion” ideas!) either by taking communion with you or receiving a prayer of blessing from a pastor.  Remind your child what communion is and why we do it.